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IDP Upgrades - Week 8

  Updated 10/26 by Aaron Rudnicki, Exclusive for Footballguys.com

Upgrades

DE Robaire Smith, CLE
Smith has been little more than a depth player for much of his career, but he does have two 40+ solo tackle seasons in the past four seasons. He missed almost the entire 2008 season due to an Achilles' injury, but has started to show signs of being back to his old self. In a blowout loss to the Packers this week, Smith led all players with 12 combined tackles, including a career-high 9 solo stops. If you're in a tackle-heavy scoring system and desperate for help on the defensive line, Smith should continue to see a lot of playing time and might not be a bad guy to pick up.

DE Justin Smith, SF
Despite struggling for much of the season thus far, Smith posted some big numbers against the Texans this week. He finished the game tied with MLB Patrick Willis for the most tackles in the game with 10, including 8 solo stops, and also was credited with a QB hit and a pass defensed. Smith has mostly been seeing time as a 3-4 DE, but the 49ers began using more 4-3 fronts this week and that seemed to help him get more involved. There was a report after the game that he suffered a calf strain so check for updates later this week before making any major moves.

DE Randy Starks, MIA
A former DT in Tennessee, Starks appears to be getting comfortable in the Dolphins 3-4 defense. He was expected to be pushed for a starting spot by 2nd year pro Philip Merling but Starks is playing some of the best football of his career. Starks only had 1 solo tackle against the Saints this week, but he was very active in the game and finished with 6 assists, a half sack, a QB hit and a fumble recovery. He now has 6 solo tackles, 7 assists, and 2.5 sacks in his last 3 games.

DE Brett Keisel, PIT
Although the Steelers lost starting DE Aaron Smith for the season a couple weeks ago, Keisel is doing his best to make up for it. Last week against the Browns, Keisel posted 1 solo, 5 assists, plus a fumble recovery and a pass defensed. This week against the undefeated Vikings, Keisel quietly put together another excellent game with 1 solo, 3 assists, plus a sack and forced fumble. What the box score doesn't show is that Keisel beat All Pro guard Steve Hutchinson in the fourth quarter to get to Favre and strip the ball, which was picked up and returned 77 yards for a touchdown by LaMarr Woodley.

DT Tony Hargrove, NO
With Saints DT Sedrick Ellis knocked out of the game with a sprained knee in the second quarter, Tony Hargrove took over and provided a big spark in the Saints come from behind victory over the Dolphins. Hargrove finished the game with 4 solo tackles, 2 sacks, 3 tackles for a loss, and 2 more QB hits. With just 1 sack all season, Ellis has not been the impact player he was supposed to be this year and Hargrove did a much better job of penetrating the backfield when he was in the game. As a former DE, Hargrove is a smaller, quicker player who should provide some solid fantasy production at the DT position if Ellis is out for any extended period of time.

LB Calvin Pace, NYJ
Although Pace was productive in his first two games back with 12 solo tackles combined, he didn't record any of the big plays that he's known for. Pace made up for that with a huge effort against the helpless Raiders this week though. With the Raiders playing nearly the entire game from behind, Pace was basically able to pass rush with reckless abandon. He took advantage of the situation and posted a team-high 7 tackles (6 solos), with 3 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, a QB hit and a pass defensed. The Jets had been struggling on both sides of the football but Pace's disruptive play might be just the spark they needed to turn their season back around.

LB Tim Dobbins, SD
Starting in place of Kevin Burnett at ILB, Tim Dobbins looked very impressive against the Chiefs this week. The Chiefs offense provided just 46 tackle opportunities in the game, yet Dobbins still managed to post 11 solo tackles and he also contributed an interception. He's not known for being very effective in coverage, but he was all over the field in this game and outplayed Stephen Cooper who finished with 0 tackles. If Burnett's ankle injury keeps him out for another week or two, Dobbins certainly looks like he could be worth a short-term pickup.

LB Shaun Phillips, SD
Things haven't been going as expected for the Chargers defense this season as Phillips and Shawne Merriman had combined for 0 sacks through the first 5 games. While Merriman still doesn't quite look like the same player he was in the past, Phillips looked like a dominant player against the Chiefs this week. In addition to collecting his first two sacks of the season, Phillips was credited with 3 QB hits in the game and also contributed against the run with 6 solo tackles. With the Raiders coming to town next week, he has a solid chance of repeating this performance.

LB Jason Taylor, MIA
Although he's not nearly as dominant as he was a couple years ago before he left Miami, Taylor is showing that he can still put pressure on opposing QBs when the Dolphins give him a lead to play with. He picked up 2 sacks a couple of weeks ago against the Bills and then added another 2-sack performance against the Saints this week, who had not given up a sack since week 3. Taylor also added 5 tackles (3 solos), a couple of forced fumbles and a pass defensed. He's probably not the type of player you can rely on each week in most standard scoring systems, but he may still wind up with double digit sacks by the time the year is over.

LB Paul Posluszny, BUF
In just two games since returning from a broken arm, Posluzny has already started to establish himself as one of the most productive tacklers in the league. He posted 9 tackles (6 solos) and an interception in last week's overtime win and then had another impressive game this week against the Panthers. Poz was credited with 9 solo tackles and 2 assists. With the Bills struggling to move the ball on offense and giving up plenty of yards on defense, don't be surprised if Posluszny is a top-10 fantasy linebacker in the second half of the season.

CB Terrell Thomas, NYG
Thomas has been doing a solid job filling in for Aaron Ross in the Giants starting lineup. He was a late 2nd round pick last year and brings good size and a solid all-around game to the position. The Giants ferocious pass rush certainly helps make things a little easier for him, but he's making the most of his opportunity. Over the past 3 games, Thomas has been credited with 12 solo tackles, 3 assists, a sack, a forced fumble, an interception, and 5 passes defensed. With matchups looming against the Eagles and Chargers, he also has a good chance to keep the hot streak going.

S CC Brown, NYG
For the second week in a row, Brown has finished with double digit solo tackles. That would stand out for most linebackers in the league, but it really stands out for a safety. Brown is not known to add much in the way of coverage, but he's a thumper in the run game who can play up in the box like an extra linebacker. That is coming in handy after the injury to Michael Boley. Brown's deficiencies in coverage can also be a bit of a strength from a fantasy perspective as the players he is covering are usually open and that can boost his tackle opportunities. The Giants don't appear to have a viable replacement for him right now so Brown should continue to be productive. Don't expect double digit solo tackles from him each week, but he looks like a great midseason waiver wire pickup.

S Dashon Goldson, SF
Goldson is a young player who is emerging as a reliable fantasy option in his first year as a starter. He's also taking on a bigger role in the 49ers run defense thanks to the concussion problems that have taken Michael Lewis out of the lineup. Over the past four games, Goldson has averaged just under 6 solo tackles and 2 assists per game while also contributing some big plays with a sack, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery. Look for him to be tested often next week when the 49ers travel to Indianapolis.

S George Wilson, BUF
Although he may not be in the starting lineup for too much longer if Donte Whitner can get healthy, Wilson has proven to be a very capable starter in recent weeks. The Bills lost both of their starting safeties to injury, which forced them into using Wilson - a converted WR - at strong safety. He has responded with 26 solo tackles, 10 assists, 2 interceptions, 2 sacks, and a forced fumble in his last 4 games. The Bills secondary led by the play of Wilson and Jairus Byrd have helped sparked a winning streak with 9 interceptions in the past two games. Look for another productive day from Wilson next week as the Texans come to town.

Downgrades

DE Osi Umenyiora, NYG
This is looking like a disappointing year for Umenyiora. Through 7 games, he has just 2 sacks and none in his last 3 games. In fairness to him, he's had some tough matchups against Drew Brees last week and Kurt Warner this week. But, he was expected to help turn the Giants pass rush into an unstoppable force this year and it just hasn't quite happened. This week, Umenyiora finished with just 1 assisted tackle and a QB hit. Fellow defensive ends Mattias Kiwanuka and Justin Tuck have looked more effective, although Umenyiora could certainly break out with a huge game at any time.

DE Ryan Denney, BUF
In the past, Denney has proven to be a very capable #3 defensive end for the Bills and he got off to a strong start with a couple of sacks in the first four games. Chris Kelsay has started to get most of the playing time opposite Aaron Schobel in recent weeks, however, and that has left Denney with very few snaps. As a result, he has just 2 assisted tackles and 0 sacks in his last 3 games.

DE Adewale Ogunleye, CHI
The Bears defense was embarrassed in a blowout loss to the Bengals this week. The Bengals scored touchdowns on 6 of their first 7 drives in the game and the Bears defensive line was completely dominated. It has been an up and down season for Ogunleye so far as he has 2 multi-sack games, but he has collected just 4 solo tackles, 3 assists, and a fumble recovery in the other four games combined. With the Bears trading for Gaines Adams, many think he could be an eventual replacement for one of the starting DE spots since Ogunleye is 32 years old and on the last year of his contract. With just 11 solo tackles through 6 games, Ogunleye is well off his pace from the past two seasons when he averaged over 50 per year. If he wants another big contract, he'll need to start playing better next week against the Browns.

DE Greg Ellis, OAK
After coming over from the Cowboys, Ellis looked like one of the best offseason pickups in the league as he collected 4 sacks in his first 4 games. Since then, however, he's been playing through a knee injury that has limited his effectiveness. With just 4 solo tackles and 0 sacks in his last 3 games, it's probably a good idea to sit him until after the bye in week 9.

DE Robert Geathers, CIN
After Antwan Odom went on injured reserve, it seemed like Geathers might be a natural to take over for him as the team's primary pass rusher. He had 10 sacks back in 2006 but has struggled to make the same type of impact the past couple of years. In a game that seemed custom made for a breakout performance this week with the Bengals blowing out the Bears, Geathers was invisible. He finished the game with 0 tackles and 0 QB hits. The Bengals only managed one sack in the game and Frostee Rucker was the guy to get it. Rucker also was credited with 3 of the team's 5 QB hits in the game. Looks like Rucker or the rookie Michael Johnson might be the players more likely to benefit from the Odom injury.

DT Kyle Williams, BUF
Williams was questionable on the injury report last week but still managed to start the game. Unfortunately, however, he was knocked out on the second series with a knee injury and did not return. Initial reports from the Bills seem to suggest that the injury could be serious but they were awaiting further tests. He's been one of the most productive tacklers from the DT spot over the past year and a half, so his replacement Spencer Johnson may be worth a look if you need a fill-in for your fantasy roster.

LB Stephen Cooper, SD
Although Cooper was listed as questionable on last week's injury report with a knee injury, he practiced on Friday and managed to play in the game. Unfortunately for his fantasy owners, however, Cooper was held to 0 tackles in the game. This may have just been a fluke but his tackle numbers this year have not been nearly as impressive as they were last year. Apart from a 13-solo game in the opener, Cooper has averaged fewer than 4 solo tackles over his past 5 games. He's also not making the big plays that became almost expected from him a year ago. The Raiders come to town next week so if he's healthy, that might provide him with a great opportunity to turn his season around.

LB Omar Gaither, PHI
The Eagles suffered their second season-ending injury to a starting MLB this year when Gaither underwent Lisfranc surgery last week. He had been putting up solid numbers and will be replaced in the lineup by Will Witherspoon, who was acquired from the Rams prior to the NFL trading deadline.

LB Takeo Spikes, SF
Takeo Spikes showed that he still had some gas left in the tank last year, but his production this year has not been nearly as good both in terms of tackles and big plays. He started the game against the Texans this week but was knocked out with a shoulder strain and replaced in the lineup by the rookie Scott McKillop.

LB Gary Brackett, IND
While the matchup against the Rams did not look all that appealing for Brackett, Steven Jackson and the Rams running backs still managed to churn out 30 carries for 155 yards in the game. Based on those numbers, it has to be a disappointment that the Colts best run stopping linebacker only managed 2 solo tackles. The Colts are struggling at the defensive tackle positions this year and that is making it more difficult for the linebackers to shed blocks and chase down plays. The explosive Colts offense is masking a lot of the problems because opponents are forced to pass the ball more than they normally would, but Brackett has just 6 solos in his first two games back after posting 15 combined in the first two games of the season.

CB Antonio Cromartie, SD
Cromartie was a late addition to the Chargers injury report last week as he dealt with what was reported as a "minor knee bruise". He still managed to start the game against the Chiefs, but was held to 0 tackles. Cromartie had 10 interceptions during his breakout 2007 season but he has just 2 in the 22 games since then and none yet this year. At least he was still posting solid tackle numbers in 2008 when he finished with 60 solos, but he is averaging just 2 solos/game so far this year. It looks like his fantasy value has hit rock bottom just a little more than a year after many people were drafting him as the #1 fantasy corner.

CB Ronde Barber, TB
The Buccaneers have said goodbye to some quality veterans in recent years like Derrick Brooks, Warren Sapp, and John Lynch. Unless he wants to move to safety, it looks like Ronde Barber might be nearing the end of his career as well. He is still good enough to show flashes like he did a week ago against the Panthers, but he has also finished with 2 or fewer solo tackles in 5 of 7 games so far this year. He's also yet to record an interception and doesn't look like a great fit in the new Tampa defense. With his bye week coming up for him this week, it might not be the worst idea to look elsewhere for a fantasy corner to finish out the season.

CB Shawn Springs, NE
Springs has been a pretty consistent fantasy performer for much of his career and he started to emerge as a nice option this year with 7 solo tackles in back to back games during weeks 4 and 5. Since then, however, he's been slowed by a knee injury. Jonathan Wilhite has started over him in each of the past two games and Springs has finished with 0 tackles in limited playing time as the Patriots won both games by huge margins. With the bye week coming up, perhaps he'll be ready to return to the starting lineup in week 9 when the Patriots face the Dolphins.

S Nick Collins, GB
With 7 interceptions last season, Collins looked like one of the best playmakers in the league. He's currently in the last year of his contact but he's not playing well enough to get a huge payday next year or to be of much use to fantasy owners. His only interception came in a season-opening win over the Bears, and he's posted just 4 solo tackles and 2 assists in his last 3 games. The Packers continue to score points on offense but the big plays from the defense have slowed down as the team struggles to adapt to Dom Capers' aggressive new 3-4 scheme.

S Charles Godfrey, CAR
Godfrey had a strong start to the season with 12 solo tackles and a forced fumble in his first two games, but he's gone cold since then. Over his last four games, he has been credited with just 7 solo tackles and 2 assists. The return of Chris Harris certainly hasn't helped, but the Panthers running game has also started doing a much better job of sustaining drives and dominating time of possession. Godfrey started the game against the Bills this week but was held without a single tackle and left the game with an ankle injury that might limit him next week against the Cardinals.